Day 4: Empowered Will and Self-Possession
St. Paul counters the slavish sexual immorality tempting Christians by urging them ‘to possess their bodies in holiness and reverence’ (1 Thess. 4:3-5). That means: ‘Forego sensational gymnastics and live like you care more for everyone’s dignity.’
A wiseman, the Apostle wouldn’t ask such self-possession if we weren’t capable of it!
St. John Paul II echoed his own version of self-possession when as young philosopher Karol Wojtyla he wrote ‘Person and Act.’ In it he casts a vision of human dignity and wholeness marked by self-possession. To give ourselves responsibly to others, we must first possess our own selves—first, to know who we are, then offer only what is wise, loving, and apt for another. That requires an even, empowered will, capable of tempering a range of responses toward others. We are weak, yes, but a heart established in a sound will can know its weaknesses and refuse their mastery.
Whew. Self-possession, guided by an empowered will, insists that we take proper responsibility for our intentions and actions. That involves freedom to know truth of human dignity and freedom to act on it.
Wojtyla writes in ‘Person and Act’: ‘Every human act has its consequences. The one is implicated and obliged by his act. He must answer for it and is responsible for it…if we diminish responsibility, we diminish personality.’ Wow. We reduce others by justifying bad behavior.’
Reading this was heaven for my daughter, a high-school teacher, who is supervised to provide ‘safe spaces’, mental health justifications, and soft assignments challenged by helicopter parents for kids whose personal responsibility is undermined by their education.
Let’s all grow up by taking responsibility for our intentions and our actions. With Jesus' help. May His Divine will empower ours and free us to forego shortcuts to loving people well. Strengthened in self-possession, may we learn to give only what confirms and builds others up in love. ‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’